Ohio Dems Backing Ted Strickland Receive $10K from Anti-Coal Billionaire

Candidate faces uphill battle with state’s coal-country voters

Coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania
Coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania / AP
November 12, 2015

Bernard Schwartz, a New York billionaire who supports environmental regulations such as cap and trade, gave $10,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party backing Ted Strickland in his bid for Senate.

Strickland has previously come under fire for his work at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal Washington, D.C., think tank that promotes anti-coal policies, as he seeks to win support from Ohio’s coal-country voters.

While Strickland faces a Democratic primary competitor in 31-year-old Cincinnati city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, the Ohio Democratic Party hastily backed Strickland, formerly the governor of Ohio, after he announced his candidacy for Senate.

The Ohio Democratic Party’s federal campaign account gave $5,000 to Strickland’s campaign in June after formally endorsing him in April, according to Federal Election Commission records. Schwartz, a major Democratic donor and progressive public policy advocate who serves as CEO of BLS Investments, made his contribution to the party in August.

"By the 2016 election, coal voters across Southeast Ohio will know very well not only how Ted Strickland turned his back on them when he went to work for the liberal Center for American Progress that runs President Obama’s War on Coal, but also how Ted Strickland is funded by anti-coal special interests that control him," Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement.

When Strickland left his post as the head of the Center for American Progress Action Fund in February to prepare for his Senate bid, the former governor was immediately met with criticism for his connection to the think tank and its progressive environmental policies. While at CAP, Strickland worked alongside Carol Browner, a senior fellow at the organization who previously worked on President Obama’s climate change policies at the Environmental Protection Agency.

"I have a real prob­lem when someone that’s the pres­id­ent of an or­gan­iz­a­tion tries to talk about coal while someone like [former EPA ad­min­is­trat­or] Car­ol Brown­er sits right next to him," Chris­ti­an Pa­l­ich, current pres­id­ent of the Ohio Coal As­so­ci­ation, said in February. "I’m sure at one point, and maybe even per­son­ally, he sup­ports coal … but you come out and say you want to run for Sen­ate when you sit on a board with someone who has ac­tu­ally fought a war on coal for Pres­id­ent Obama."

The United Mine Workers of America, which supported Strickland when he was governor, hinted that the union might stay out of the Ohio Senate race altogether.

"It would be some time be­fore we make a de­cision, if we get in­volved at all," spokesman Phil Smith said in February. "We sup­por­ted Gov­ernor Strick­land in the past, but that’s … we’re go­ing to have to see how our mem­bers want to deal with that as we move for­ward."

Before launching his Senate bid, Strickland told the Associated Press that he "care[s] about coal communities." In February, his spokesman Dennis Willard emphasized the "tremendous support" the former governor has received from coal workers in the state.

"Ted Strickland has always had tremendous support and continues to have support among coal mining families and the leaders of coal mining in Ohio," Willard stated, according to the Hill. "The labor organizations for coal miners have backed him and so have their leaders throughout his entire career."

There is no record of committees associated with coal miner unions donating to Strickland’s campaign in the first three-quarters of 2015. Strickland has received nearly $100,000 from committees affiliated with other labor unions.

A representative for the Strickland campaign did not immediately respond to a Washington Free Beacon request for comment.